Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield) is concerned that his son Jason (Keith Gordon) is unsure whether to go to college, so the uneducated self-made millionaire encourages him by signing up as a student as well. As Jason tries to establish himself among his peers and make the diving team, Thornton falls for a pretty professor (Sally Kellerman) and gets others do his schoolwork for him. When the suspicious dean (Paxton Whitehead) finds out, Thornton needs to show he can get by on his own.
Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) wants to play football at the University of Notre Dame but has neither the money for tuition nor the grades to qualify for a scholarship. Rudy redoubles his efforts to get out of the steel mill where his father works when his best friend (Christopher Reed) dies in an accident there. Overcoming his dyslexia thanks to his friend and tutor, D-Bob (Jon Favreau), Rudy gains admission to Notre Dame and begins to fight his way onto the school’s fabled football team.